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Senate Committee Backs Bernanke

The full body will now vote on his nomination to the Federal Reserve.
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The Senate Banking Committee has approved the nomination of Ben Bernanke to the

Federal Reserve

, making it almost a certainty that the economist will be the central bank's next chairman.

Bernanke, 51, will need to be confirmed by the full Senate. The Georgia native, picked by President Bush to succeed Alan Greenspan, is the chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers.

He was previously a member of the Fed's Board of Governors, and he also formerly headed Princeton University's economics department.

On Tuesday, at his hearing before the Senate committee, Bernanke said the Fed must respond flexibly when the economy needs help, but it shouldn't stray from a "coherent, consistent and predictable" course in promoting its main goal of price stability.

One way to do that could be inflation targets, he said. Though a supporter of targeting, at least conceptually, Bernanke said he wouldn't take "precipitate steps" toward putting them in place.

He also promised to continue Greenspan's policies. Greenspan, named Fed chairman in 1987 by President Reagan, is set to retire by the end of January.